TO BE AROUND her was to see style being invented', was how William Maxwell, her editor at the New Yorker, once described Maeve Brennan. She was small, barely five feet tall, and she dressed in black, with a fresh flower, usually a rose, at her lapel, and dark lipstick applied rather thickly. She wore her reddish hair piled on the top of her head, and her shoes had very high heels. But style was, in a way, the least of her, for Maeve Brennan, whose fiction is now largely forgotten, was a marvellous writer of short stories, an acerbic book reviewer, and the author, during her years at the New Yorker, of hundreds of unsigned 'Talk of the Town' columns, the most valued assignment for its writers. What Angela Bourke has done in her new biography, Maeve Bannan: Homesick at the 'New Yorker', is not only to trace a somewhat forlorn life. but to remind readers of how much they have missed.
Maeve Brennan's father Bob was a journalist and writer, and a member of Sinn Féin, constantly on the run from the army; her mother Una was a keen nationalist and a feminist, and for a while contributed a column to a newspaper. Their four children grew up in a world